Seleka leader Djotodia under pressure to quit

Central African Republic’s interim leader unable to halt bloodshed

A group of anti-balaka sentinels stand outside the Médecins Sans Frontière health centre in Bangui. Photograph: Emmanuel Braun/Reuters

A group of anti-balaka sentinels stand outside the Médecins Sans Frontière health centre in Bangui. Photograph: Emmanuel Braun/Reuters


The Central African Republic’s interim leader, Michel Djotodia, is facing pressure to step down at a summit of regional leaders because of his inability to halt the bloodshed that has forced about a million people to flee their homes.

Mr Djotodia, who seized power in March at the head of the Seleka rebels, already lacked legitimacy in the eyes of other African governments.

But he is considered an even greater liability as the country has descended into chaos amid reprisal attacks from mainly Christian militias against the largely Muslim rebel group.

Not working
Reuters reported that Mr Djotodia would announce his departure at the meeting of the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, or shortly after returning to Bangui, CAR’s capital. A spokesman for Mr Djotodia denied any such plan. But Ahmat Allami, the CEEAC secretary general, said the group would tell Mr Djotodia that his transitional government was not working.

Analysts, however, questioned whether dumping Mr Djotodia, who is seen as beholden to Seleka warlords, would improve the situation.

“He is their pawn and it would not be surprising if he quit, but that would not solve much,” said one expert. “Seleka is not an organised rebel movement with a political agenda. The problem is who would take his place.”

The meeting in N’Djamena would discuss the various options for continuing the transition, including allowing the president of a national transitional council to take over or mandating Nicolas Tiangaye, the prime minister, to run the country until elections, now due by the end of the year. A third option would be to create a new transitional team from scratch, though that could take more time.

The presidents of Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon, who are mediating in the crisis, are scheduled to discuss transitional arrangements at the weekend.

As regional leaders mull the political options, EU ambassadors are set to discuss on Friday a proposal for an EU force of between 700 and 1,000 soldiers to support the 1,600 French troops who arrived in December. Unlike past interventions, the French force has been unable to restore order and security as the violence has been on such a large scale.

Since the reprisal attacks against the Seleka in Bangui at at the start of December, violence in the capital has resulted in 752 deaths and more than 300 injured. Throughout the country there have been more than 1,000 deaths and hundreds injured, raped and their houses set on fire, resulting in a million people displaced.

Under the EU plan submitted by Catherine Ashton, its policy chief, one option would be to set up bases in some towns in the west of the country to create a secure area, covering the road to neighbouring Cameroon.

International forces
A second option would be to focus on Bangui, co-ordinating with other international forces. Under this option, the EU force could take over the airport zone, allowing French forces there to deploy elsewhere.

An estimated 100,000 people holed up at the airport in Bangui gained some respite this week when aid workers delivered food after a three-week impasse.

“Practically, the EU operation could be deployed within a few weeks, but it would require a quick decision by member states,” said diplomatic sources. It would last until an African Union force was fully operational or a possible UN mission. – (Guardian service)